But for now it’s goodbye to the beaches, and indeed many a celebrated island of yore now lies deep under the waves. An entire world and way of life has disappeared with these fabled places, a lifeway that went right back to the beginning of the species in south and east Africa, where the earliest humans were often intimately involved with the sea. That wet, sandy, tidal, salty, sun-flecked, beautiful beach life: all gone, along with so much else, of course; animals, plants, fish. It’s part of the mass extinction event they are still struggling to end, to escape. So much has been lost that will never come back again, that the loss of the joy of the relatively few humans who were lucky enough to live on the strand, who combed the beaches, and fished, and rode the waves, and lay in the sun – that’s nothing much to grieve for, given everything else that has been lost, all the suffering, all the hunger, all the death, all the extinctions. Most of the mammal species are gone.

Still, it was a way of life much beloved, and still remembered in art and song, image and story – still legendary, still a lost golden age, vibrating at some level below thought, there in their salty blood and tears, in the long, curled waves of DNA that still break inside them all.

– From “Aurora,” by Kim Stanley Robinson

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